tv [untitled] June 3, 2012 3:30pm-4:00pm EDT
>> just to give the viewer a sense of these months. so the congressman rodino knows what, october he's going to be running this. >> correct. >> so october, november and december, you and your brother. >> and anyone else we could get. >> running the search? >> correct. correct. and actually, the viewers won't see this but i showed you today one of the many files that has not been touched in 30 years, it was the file i kept of all the recommendations and research we found saying all of that out of just frustration, again to my older brother. one day he said, you know -- my brother worked for bob kennedy
at one time. and he says, you know, there was -- he did not work in president kennedy's administration, but he worked for senator kennedy. both when he ran for the senate and then after. >> what's your brother's name? >> john. john o'brien. >> what did he do for the senator? >> a political aide. he worked in the '64 campaign. that's how he did it, and he was political person, but he called one day and said you know, there was a man named john doar who worked for president kennedy and works for senator kennedy who was -- who during president kennedy's administration was a very well-known civil rights lawyer, and was one of the people that the justice department then robert kennedy was attorney general sent south to -- to help work on the civil rights issues that were there at the time and was very highly
respected. so i took that in. great. so we began the search. well, where's john doar? no internet. no computer. i didn't know how to spell his name. so i had d-o-r. d-o-r-e. i just couldn't find him. so finally i get ahold of my brother, i said, you have to call somebody in the kennedy family and -- so, anyway, turns out we found him and he was i believe at the time the head of a corporation, which was a, i think a community help organization founded by robert kennedy. i believe. but i think that's where he was or had been there. anyway, clearly then we did -- clearly he started to catch our attention. certainly caught my attention and others, because of his background. turns out he was, he was appointed by president
eisenhower. hired by president eisenhower. he was a republican from the midwest. he had this incredible reputation while at the justice department. so he started to get on our list. and i started to feed these names to the congressman as -- and there were maybe ten that we decided that had reached the place where they would meet congressman rodino's criteria and that it was time for him to start meeting these people and we began the interview process. i think john doar remembers that -- i think i called him. i think that's how he remembers it. that i'm the one who called him and had him come in, and i can't remember the time.
i think i talked to him first. you have to think about that for a minute, for people who are watching this. here was this young staff person. not a lawyer. very low experience. i'm interviewing sort of the icons of the civil rights movement for this job, but clearly, i'm just a clearing house. anyway, we present the names. he interviewed the various candidates, and he came to the conclusion, he thought that john doar was the person that he wanted, that would meet his criteria. we called john doar. i think i made the call to john doar. of course, you never want to put a person in this position. i called john doar to say, if you're going to be asked, would you accept it if you're asked? and he said that he would. so i told the congressman that
he would and he called the congressman and he was hired. >> after the judiciary committee approved the three articles of impeachment, the "new york times" wrote a story about the history of the committee and made the argument that -- that congressman rodino had a hard time making up his mind and that in order to push him to make up his mind, somebody leaked to the press the names of john doar and a few other people. it's true that the -- is it true that the congressman had a hard time? >> i don't think he a hard time. he was extremely judicious. where you are in your point of history, that became one of the great aspects, because, again, he had a conversation one night. he said -- of course, i was this very young sort of let's get going staffer, and he said to me one evening, he said, you know, i don't know how this is going to come out.
this inquiry, and he took it extremely serious. he said, there could be nothing more serious in this country than the potential removal of the president of the united states. and he said, you know, once you begin this process, you can't stop it. it will go to a conclusion. i don't know what that conclusion is, but before we begin, i want to make sure that we're on the right path, and we have done the right thing, and i think that was always utmost in his mind, that -- that once the process began, it will follow a course, and there will be -- and he was right. you know. once an inquiry opens, once you get your staff, he said to me, i don't know what it's going to be.
so i think he was very judicious, some say had a hard time making up his mind. i think he probably did because there was no -- he had nothing to fall back on. there's no history here. as you well know. there's -- i remember we put a book together. i still remember it. a thin little book with a tan binding that was sort of the history of impeachment that we as the judiciary staff, we will go back to johnson's time to go back to the 1860s to find out if there was any history of, what do you do? and there was no history. so this was all very uncharted. and he was not about to go into this in a way that was not judicious. he was under a lot of pressure, because many members of this committee, as it is today, were
very liberal, and, again, he did not have standing. he was not -- you know, he didn't have the respect when he took over the committee that manny had, and he to earn that respect. so the same time he'd been given this extraordinary task, he has to build credibility with his committee. pressure never bothered him. he was very calm about it. >> i'm going to jump ahead. because you raised something. what about the time when he thought he was having a heart attack? remember in february? gets sick. this is the time when they're discussing the -- >> i remember that. it doesn't -- it doesn't come to.
it doesn't come to memory -- i think he got sick. they thought maybe he had some kind of heart -- but it was not -- at least internally, it was not considered, oh, my god. i think he was under a lot of pressure, and i think he what everyone has, high blood pressure or whatever, but i don't -- it's something i don't remember much about. >> okay. by the way, did -- did melvin, the former secretary of defense, play any role what so ever in the selection of john doar? >> i think had supported it. i think there was -- in other words, once doar's name came to the floor, and once it started to surface, i think -- maybe laird and others, true the
back-door messaging said that they thought that was an honorable choice. >> was there any pushback from the more partisan democrats on the committee because you had chosen a republican? >> yes. there was a lot of -- there was a lot of displeasure in the more liberal elements of the committee and i think in the house that -- here's a republican. this is an incredible undertaking, and why would you ever pick a republican to do this? and i think there was that. there was a lot of criticism. everybody had an opinion. because this was such -- so, again, my amazement is, how the congressman dealt with that. he just sort of, you know, he was always in his three-piece suit, also very calm and he just -- he just absorbed and
just moved on. >> francis, was there pushback from more partisan republicans because you selected somebody who was associated with the kennedys? >> yes. well, that was the argument you could see right away. on the one side you had -- here's some big, liberal left wing person and then democrats saying, here's some republican. in the congressman's mind -- this is all said many years later, he's thinking, this is about right. in other words, because he knew in his mind that the pathway would not be either one of those. it would not be -- if the conclusion was to be made that president nixon would be found guilty or not guilty of charges of impeachment, that it's not
going to be made by that partisan element or that partisan element, then he felt it had to be made, the conclusion had to be made out of this what he called this middle. >> do you at a certain point say to mr. doar, once he's hired, now it's up to you to recruit the rest of the staff? or do you participate? >> well, i had to sign off as the chairman. i had to sign off. there's a back story. there was a time -- because that's all i did. i was chief of staff, but i didn't do any of this rather housework. you know, a lot of thing, committee meetings were taking place, and, you know, normal business was taking place, but i was only doing this. so a number of times i asked him, did he not think i should go on the committee staff? because there are certain things where only members of the committees or staff of the committee could participate in certain meetings, and he always, he said, no. he said, i don't think -- i'd
rather keep you here. and it was -- it was difficult a lot of times, because, of course, it sort of restrained my activities, but then it became clear later that no committee member could get to me, because if you're on a committee staff, a ranking member could have you fired or, you know, could do whatever, but you can't do anything to a personal staff. so he said -- i didn't realize this until much later, as he had me do various activities within the -- with different members and that. but one of the things was signing off. so john, this was up to him. remember, of course, the minority had picked a, a counsel who, by the way, was on our list, was on the chairman's list, for chief counsel. and it was mr. jenner from chicago.
i can't remember his first name. >> burt. >> burt. >> did the congressman rodino interview jenner for the job? >> i don't remember. i nope he was on the list, because i remember talking to him one night saying this is a great choice. again, he met the criteria from rodino's point. he thought he was honorable. he thought he was not partisan. he was republican. you know, strong republican roots, but out of chicago, but -- and he thought he had the intellectual heft. so he was very pleased with that choice when they picked -- so that was done. then a lot of politicking, because this is a political process. take place in picking the staff. because the counter -- to
satisfy the more liberal members of the committee, they wanted their person on the staff. who came in the name of cates. >> dick cates? >> yeah. dick cates from wisconsin. i believe he was -- and -- that was challenges because that wasn't john doar's selection, because he didn't meet -- but politics play as very important role here and so he was chosen as a very high ranking, could be deputy counsel at the time, but -- and then -- but john essentially had the job of interviewing and assembling the staff that became over 120 people, and i think he had a fairly open or control over that. in other words i think he was
given a free hand is what i'm trying to say doing that. there were political choices we had to make. his members would have their choices, that john would have to interview, but i do remember one in particular. brooks was a very powerful member from texas, and you're a populist liberal and not happy with sort of the -- i think he selected -- he didn't have the fire that jack brooks had, and certainly john doar didn't have the fire that jack brooks wanted, and jack brooks sort of led a -- the group that actually involved jerry szekely and a whole team that we had to deal with over the whole course of
the inquiry. but i remember one day i got called up from congressman brooks' office, asked to come over. so i went over, and jack brooks had a resume in front of him. jack brooks says, boy, he said -- and he said this gentleman's name who i can't remember at the time. he was on the staff. a young lawyer from yale or something, and he said, do you know so and so? i said, yes, sir. chairman assigned -- he's a member of the staff. he said, boy, do you know where he's from? i said, i'm not sure what school he went to. he said, no, sir. he said, do you know where he was born? i said, no, sir. he said, he was born in beaumont, texas. he says, does that mean anything
to you? i said, no, sir. you have to think, this is another generation, and i was dressed in a little three-piece suit, a thin tie. jack brooks reaches across the table, grabs my tie. and starts pulling me across the desk. big congressional desk. he said, boy, that's my district. he said don't you ever hire somebody from my district without getting my approval. my necktie was very tight at that point around my neck. and he dropped me. i go, yes, sir. so i went back. jack brooks -- i had the approval. john doar hired this person. highly qualified, congressman said, fine, i signed off of it. just a normal procedure. i think jack brooks many times called the congressman and want
wanted me fired because, you know, i had done this and this can't happen. this is a breach of protocol and you just never do this. the congressman being a good politician said, jack -- as he often said, sometimes i just can't control the kid. he just does things that i just can't, you know -- i just don't understand. then began the great relationship between the congressman and myself understanding my role and the role of everyone. and, anyway, he was hired. and i think he's a very well-known lawyer today. i just can't remember his name, but, anyway, to your, you know, making the story long for you. just john essentially -- john, mr. jenner and others picked the staff. they had -- they had a pretty good, 90% of the staff was their choice, and i think they picked some of the best people, and you'll later see, in the
country. >> do you remember any of the republicans pushing for their -- >> yes. >> oh, absolutely. oh no. everything was -- it was very -- it was very easy. this was very partisan, yes. very sense, yes, but there was a cordiality and respect between the two parties. the ranking member was congressman hutchison who was quite eloquent, and had the deep respect of chairman rodino, but hutchison was up in age and this obviously was very stressful for him. so the second ranking republican was a gentleman by the name of mcclory from illinois, i think,
and he became very important. in other words, he -- congress was in constant consultation with him, and there was that relationship where you, you know, that you respected each other. it was a lot of partisanship. there was a lot of people out on the fringes but a deep institutional respect between the two parties and there wasn't i think some of the rancor that exists today, even though this is an unbelievable story, undertaking, with enormous amount of partisan input here. >> can you help us understand that? because as you said, it was a partisan time and yet there wasn't the rancor. >> yes. >> so how -- was it just the way in which the congressmen interacted with each other? >> i think institutionally, i
think institutionally still the institution is still very strong. congress. both the house and senate. they had very strong leaders. i think there was a lot of respect on both sides of the aisle, and i -- and what i remember of being there all those years ago, it was time to be partisan. time when the different bills were up and yes, there was a lot of name-calling, but it was all within boundaries. it was all within a boundary, but i think personalities, you forget about personalities, personalities make a great deal of difference. peter rodino knew a lot of these people. they spent a lot of time together. they went to the gym daily. the congressman played handball, i think, in the gym, but they ate lunch together. you know, they went to the members' dining room. and there was -- there was just
a lot, if not socializing, not in terms of going out to dinner and that, but there was a lot of -- people knew each other. and when you know somebody, there's a lot of respect for the other person. so i think the personalities really helped, and as you look back in history now, so many of these members on both sides of the aisles came up, it sort of makes me proud about the house. these are just sort of unknown people, and they rose to the occasion. champion is, it's chilling. in fact, when you think back historically how these sort of average members, who, you know, most citizens never heard of stepped up to, and took this as an extraordinary duty. as a public servant, and that it rose above -- yes, it was partisan, and yes it had -- but
felt very strongly that if you're going to conduct this inquiry, it had to be a fair inquiry, and there was a core that believed that. the question was, would this be a fair inquiry? that was always the overriding question. >> one of the first challenges for the congressman was to decide a debate is that was happening on the staff as to whether these proceedings would be viewed as a grand jury. where the president's counsel could not be involved, and at least from the my reading of the story. mr. doar really felt it should be a grand jury, but the congressman overruled it. do you remember? >> right. uh-huh. >> could you tell us what you remember? >> well, i just remember, it's -- i remember saying, you know, i'm not a lawyer, but i remember saying, it happens just about every evening during the week. the committee was -- on capitol hill, but john and some staff had come over and certainly of the day, this discussion had taken place among many others but i think in the end, the congressman said you know, this is not a jury. this is not a courtroom.
this is congress. and he didn't feel that, again, he was a great institutionalist. he felt that's not their role. this is not the grand jury. and it shouldn't be thought of as a grand jury. i just remember -- i remember just, again, you're always -- he always said things and it took a while to figure that out, but it just didn't feel right to him, that that's the way it should be conducted. and, you know, again, he had enormous respect for john and for everyone on the committee, but there's where you sort of -- may be underestimated the congressman all the time, because you'd say, well, you know, when you defer -- he didn't defer to anybody, actually.
he just took it all in and tried to -- and then he laid on his, what the institution should do. you know, what's the role of this house? what's the role of these people? and then he'd make the decision. but, yeah. i agree with most of those conversations. >> the other issue was whether you had to find the president guilty of a crime. to impeach. >> uh-huh. >> and ultimately, the committee decided, no. >> right. >> do you remember what role the congressman played in that? >> he played a very important role, but there were other meshes that were very critical. this is like a staff thing and then, you know, they come and deliver. very important to the congressman thinking. there was paul sarbanes, young congressman from maryland, later became a senator, now retired, strong intellectual. became very important to adviser and more than adviser, he's a core member, but very
influential to congressman rodino in terms of his thinking. his sort of putting this intellectual thought into this. john edwards, very liberal congressman from california, former fbi agent. very important in -- because he was -- he was a very reasonable person. very liberal, but he was sort of the congressman's gate, sort of door, to the liberal wing of the committee and the party. don became -- mr. edwards became very important. so there was a group that the congressman reached out to that became-- that were very influential in coming to these decisions. these were not a sort of peter rodino, john doar and that's all that was involved.
there was a lot of discussion. a lot of i think memos and a lot of -- they used to pack every friday -- congressman went back to his district in newark. they'd pack a big binder with all of these memos and all of these thinking, and then he'd read them over the weekend and then all the discussions would take place with the various members. remember, this is the thing, he couldn't do this without a consent of his fellow members. he had to bring them a lot. he had to hold them at bay. in other words, let the process work, but at the same time, they couldn't feel excluded. it was pretty extraordinary today that they allowed this inquiry to go on so long, a lot of conversations within the committee, behind the committee room, in the congressman's office. there was constant outreach about what various members thought on these very issues.
to read transcripts of this and other related interviews and for more information on the nixon presidential library oral history project go to nixonlibrary.gov. this year, c-span's local content vehicles are traveling the country exploring american history. next, a look at our recent visit to wichita, kansas. you're watching "american history tv" all weekend every weekend on c-span3. >> wichita, kansas. yeah! >> we are living history museum that represents the history of wichita from 1865 through 1880. 15-year time span.